Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our off-the-grid set up

We completed the first leg of our trip yesterday and now are at my parents for the next two days. It is lovely to have no packing or un-packing to do. We are getting some much needed rest before our off the grid adventures begin.

And just what is this off the grid business? It simply means no public utilities or services connect to your property, no electricity, no water, no natural gas, no sewage. How this translates to any given living situation differs drastically. In our case, it does not mean we will be reading by the light of a kerosene lantern, cooking on a wood-burning stove, fetching the milk from a root cellar filled with ice blocks packed in sawdust, and pumping water out of a well. We have solar panels with a back-up gasoline generator, a drilled well, and a propane tank which fuels a cook stove, a hot-water tank, and a rinnai space heater. We also have a wood-burning stove in the living room, which will be our primary heat-source. And for sewage there is the typical non-urban set up: a flush toilet, a septic tank, and a leach field. However, as mentioned, until we fix the leach field we'll be using the outhouse. But as long as the sun shines, or we have gas, we have hot and cold running water.

And, yes, we have a refrigerator and will be getting a washing machine, the two main amenities I get asked about. I have no interest in feeding two kids without proper refrigeration or in spending the majority of my time hand-washing clothes. On the other hand, we do want to minimize generator use, so we are already making plans to build a root cellar, have purchased a few kerosene lanterns, and are hoping to get the old spring well going, that way we could have the option of pumping water. I also am keen on getting a wood-burning cook stove someday, but have yet to convince Aaron that it makes sense. I argue that we have the propane stove for the summer or quick cook jobs, but in the winter we can add heat to the house and make breakfast or bread or whatever off the same logs of wood. If anyone has experience with cooking on a wood-burning stove, I'd love to know if you would vote for or against getting one and why.


  1. Wood burning cook stoves are very much a win. I use mine, a Waterford Stanley, most months of the year in southern NH. If I had to choose between having Only gas or Only wood, it would be a very hard choice. (I was directed here by a friend of a friend of a friend of yours)

  2. Thanks for much for the info. Very much appreciated.

  3. Hi, I was directed here by a similar friend-of-a-friend. I grew up in Caribou, Maine and live in Somerville now, but still go back to the north woods to visit family from time to time.

    The woodstove is excellent for cooking, but it requires a fair amount of planning with respect to timing (sort of like a crockpot) and finesse with moving things around the stove to make sure they get the right amount of heat, and feeding it wood. If you think about an Aga stove, it's a pretty similar method of use. All things told, not that hard to learn, just very different from what you're probably used to.

  4. Mirja, we have a woodstove in Kakarniemi and I love it and use it always when possible, which means, when it is not too warm. The food tastes better, believe or not, much better. Needs although quite a lot wood, but usually trees grow up and you have to cut them now and then. I always prefer woodstove if possible. But, yes, it needs control.